Plasmid-acquired carbapenemases in Enterobacteriaceae, which were first discovered in Europe in the 1990s, are now increasingly being identified at an alarming rate. Although their hydrolysis spectrum may vary, they hydrolyse most β-lactams, including carbapenems. They are mostly of the KPC, VIM, NDM and OXA-48 types. Their prevalence in Europe as reported in 2011 varies significantly from high (Greece and Italy) to low (Nordic countries). The types of carbapenemase vary among countries, partially depending on the cultural/population exchange relationship between the European countries and the possible reservoirs of each carbapenemase. Carbapenemase producers are mainly identified among Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli, and still mostly in hospital settings and rarely in the community. Although important nosocomial outbreaks with carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae have been extensively reported, many new cases are still related to importation from a foreign country. Rapid identification of colonized or infected patients and screening of carriers is possible, and will probably be effective for prevention of a scenario of endemicity, as now reported for extended-spectrum β-lactamase (mainly CTX-M) producers in all European countries. © 2012 The Authors. Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2012 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.